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West Coast US travel advice

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#1 sueb31

Posted 19 January 2013 - 12:10 PM

I have searched the threads but am just after a bit of advice on travel planning. Thinking of getting the airfares sorted. Air New Zealand look good and fly in and out of San Francisco and LA.

We have done lots of overseas travel but don't know the west coast of the US very well at all. Would love itinerary thoughts, especially about where to fly in and out of.

2 adults 3 kids (3,5,7).
June / July 2013: 3-4 weeks
Interests: Legoland (!), National Parks, nature photography, shopping. Not so fussed on cities.
Other: Gluten and lactose free kids. Like to stay in one place for at least 3-5 days and drive from there. Not looking for a packed itinerary of craziness.

Plans so far: Could either just stick to SFO, or fly into LA and drive up to Yosemite then fly out of SFO.
Looking at the Google map it looks like there are a few national parks near San Francisco, and my memory tells me that the only thing LA has going for it is theme parks.

Any thoughts appreciated!!
(Yes, I have read other threads. Mainly most unsure about national parks, areas of beauty info. Seems to be a bit on the net about Legoland (Sandiego) and Disneyland/world (always get confused).


#2 harryboy

Posted 19 January 2013 - 12:27 PM

You need to provide more info about what is important to see and whether you are happy to drive / fly / catch trains. From your email so far, I would suggest flying into SF and staying for a few days, then driving down highway 1 to LA. There's not a whole lot to do there but not sure if you are interested in Hollywood etc. (there is an amazing Circque de Soleil there). From here it is easy to catch a bus to Disneyland where you need 3 days.

Legoland is in Carlsbad which is about an hour by train from San Diego. LA - to San Diego is about 2hrs on an express train. Legoland is a real pain to get to if you don't drive. There's no shuttle from the train station so you have to catch a cab.

We did a trip where we caught a bus to Las Vegas from LA and then drove up through Yosemite to SF. I don't think I would enjoy this with 3 kids though.

#3 harryboy

Posted 19 January 2013 - 12:30 PM

Should clarify since you like natural beauty - road trip down highway 1 is said to be one of the most scenic you can do.

#4 Seeta girl

Posted 19 January 2013 - 12:51 PM

We travelled to Anaheim, Carlsbad & Hollywood for 3 weeks 18 months ago. During this time we rented homes - great money saving option (so much cheaper than hotels!) and we cooked many nights rather than eating out! Also was nice to come 'home' at the end of a busy day.
I agree, you need at least three days at Disneyland - my kids were aged 7 & 5 and loved it!
We rented a beautiful townhouse (4 b/rooms) in Carlsbad for 1 week. Whilst here we also rented a car - a must to get to Legoland and it also allowed us to travel to San Diego for the day to visit Seaworld. Carlsbad is a great seaside town - beautiful coastal walk,  farmers market, restaurants and a Premimium Outlet Store (great savings!).

#5 Isolabella

Posted 19 January 2013 - 01:00 PM

If planning on staying at Yosemite book early.

We flew into LA. did Disney, then over to LV and g. Canyon. Drove up to Yosemite. Then did Nappa Valley and down hwy 1 to Carmel (DH played Pebble beach) then onto Santa Barbara. flew out of LA. That was 2wks.

#6 little lion

Posted 19 January 2013 - 01:11 PM

Muir Woods is near San Francisco and is home to a huge redwood forest.

#7 Petdombri

Posted 19 January 2013 - 01:21 PM

I can certainly recommend the Grand del Mar in SD as a hotel....as i am typing this response I am sitting in one of their hotels rooms. Looking forward to heading to Carlsbad for some big time factory outlet shopping. We flew into LA this afternoon and just drove down to SD. The freeways make it a a very quick run.

#8 Mum2ZandE

Posted 19 January 2013 - 01:41 PM

I'd be inclined to fly in to San Fran. Drive to Yosemite. Back across to Monterey then take your time driving down the coast. The coast is gorgeous and from someone else who loves photography, it's worth taking your time.

You could either then base yourself in Anaheim, see Disneyland and California Adventure Park and do a day tour to Legoland or drive to San Diego and spend some time there, then drive back to Anaheim. Fly home from LA.

We did a similar trip in October and hired a car through jigsawtravel.com.au. Reasonable prices and it included taxes. We had a Kia Sorrento but for a family of 5, I'd definately go the next size up. We bought booster seats from Target and donated them once we'd finished.

I hope this helps.


Edited by Mum2ZandE, 19 January 2013 - 01:42 PM.

#9 sueb31

Posted 19 January 2013 - 02:24 PM

Thank you all for taking the time to write. It is greatly appreciated. helps me get my head around it all. (And thinking that Legoland is a big ask!...may revist those negotiations).

QUOTE (harryboy @ 19/01/2013, 12:27 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
You need to provide more info about what is important to see and whether you are happy to drive / fly / catch trains.

Sorry, should have said. Prefer to drive. With the 3 kids, there is so much luggage that flights and trains become a bit unwieldy. The photographer likes to be able to drive, stop car, take photos...

I will have to do some reading about Disney etc too. My kids don't like rollercoasters and scary rides, and haven't seen a lot of Disney (get too scared). Just now they are doing a bit better, but haven't had a lot of exposure to all the characters etc. Hence Legoland has been a better fit (2 boys 5 and 7).

Thanks again. I appreciate the time and effort.

#10 Isolabella

Posted 19 January 2013 - 02:31 PM

Disney is not really about roller coasters. I had my 2,4,6yo at Disney Paris last year. They had a ball.

There is also a Cars area now in the California park.

We went to lego land in Windsor and that was more roller coaster/scary then Disney.

#11 mandala

Posted 19 January 2013 - 02:47 PM

In 2005, DH and I flew into SFO, then drove Yosemite > Whitney Portal > Death Valley > Las Vegas > Grand Canyon > LV. We then flew to Calgary and drove to Yellowstone and Grand Teton  via Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks. We were obviously after a bit of a nature-based holiday!

It was easy driving, easy travelling. We did a combination of camping and hotels - camping in National Parks, hotels in cities. The facilities for camping in the parks are so good, I would have no concerns taking kids who hadn't camped before. The park stores were usually open until 10pm and they were all well-stocked supermarkets, with a range of pre-prepared meals as well. Depending on the parks, you can also get cabins or stay in some of the most amazing lodges.

The only concern is that you have to book early. We went in June/July, and the weather was great, but we were literally on the phone the day that bookings opened to get spots - I think it was 3 or 6 months out from the dates we travelled.

We contemplated driving from the Grand Canyon up through Utah and Bryce Canyon/Zion National Parks to Grand Teton/Yellowstone, but it was just a bit too hot that time of year. I would love to go back.

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